Growing up Mormon in Utah taught me a lot of things: Green Jello and funeral potatoes are life-sustaining, Coke is against the Word of Wisdom (‘cuz the caffeine), and, while herbal tea is technically okay, it’s better not to drink it…because it’s tea.
This left me in a bit of an odd place when I observed that, not only is there a whole world of normal people who live happily without the gospel, but there is a ton of inconsistency within the church when it comes to the Word of Wisdom and it’s “enforcement.” Since principles and procedures have evolved over time, let’s do our best to figure out what is allowable and what isn’t today.
Before we go on I feel like I should clarify something, my reason for wanting to know what kind of tea Mormons can drink (and writing this article) is not to push boundaries. Rather, it’s because I feel that some disambiguation on the subject would lead to greater understanding and obedience.
Ready? Okay, pass me the can of worms….
What drinks are expressly forbidden by the Word of Wisdom?
I’m sure you know the answer I’m going to give here: “Hot drinks, which has been further clarified to mean coffee and tea.” That’s the answer that is given in every Sunday School and Gospel Doctrine class. Not super helpful is it?
However, this wasn’t always so clear. Even after the word of wisdom members and leaders of the church continued to drink both coffee and tea (as well as alcohol). This was first addressed by Hyrum Smith in 1842 when he said:
“hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;” there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.”
So no qualms there, coffee is out. Tea, on the other hand, is a much hairier and complex issue. To further confuse it, let’s move forward with this quote as well,
“Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. It’s well known that tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco are against it. It has not been spelled out in more detail. Rather, we teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.” (The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promise)
In other words, it’s up to us to figure it out. So let’s do some figuring…
Here are some points to consider on the tea issue:
- Most of the tea that early American’s drank was Green Tea
- Green Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, also the source of other traditional teas such as black tea, white tea, and oolong tea
- Recently, Green Tea has been confirmed to be against the Word of Wisdom
- It has been confirmed several times by church leaders that caffeine is not explicitly against the Word of Wisdom so we can’t use that as a deciding factor. However, “substances that are destructive, habit-forming or addictive should be avoided”
- The Lord has given us herbs “to strengthen the body” and to be “used with prudence and thanksgiving.” However, since many herbs are actually medicinal in value, we are warned to use them “with judgment” and “not in excess.”
- The Word of Wisdom does not deny us the privilege of getting pleasure from food (eg. drinking herbal tea as a tasty treat)
Luckily, members of the church are not left to use their own brains to decide what is tea and what isn’t. Camellia sinensis is the tea plant according to botanists. Tea is any drink made from the tea plant. Any drink that is not made from the tea plant (milk, juice, herbal tea, etc.) is, therefore, not tea. Herbal tea just happens to share a name because of the preparation method.
So, all things considered, here is my answer. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ should avoid any tea that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant (green tea, black tea, white tea, and oolong tea) as they are not in keeping with the Word of Wisdom. In general, herbal teas are in keeping with the Word of Wisdom. We do, however, need to be aware of the ingredients in the tea and the effect that they will have on our bodies.
Direct answers about what tea Mormons can drink:
Although we are not meant to be commanded in all things, it sure would have to have some clarification about certain items pertaining to the Word of Wisdom. For this reason, I have done my best to find and tease out answers to some questions you might have about tea, coffee, and the Word of Wisdom. In the interest of being thorough, I might be repeating some information from above.
While some of the true answers might not be as cut and dry as the answers I give, I don’t really care. I’ve done my best to distill everything down to a yes or no. With that being said, I didn’t receive any special revelation on this topic so, if new information comes available, this post will be updated.
So let’s get to it!
Can Mormons drink Green Tea?
No. In a statement released by the church on August 15, 2019, it was confirmed that green tea is against the Word of Wisdom.
Can Mormons drink Yerba Mate?
Yes. Yerba mate has not been specifically added to the list of proscribed substances. Many members of the church throughout the world enjoy it daily as do some missionaries (it’s left up to the discression of the mission president).
Can Mormons drink chai tea?
No. The base of traditional chai tea is black tea which is forbidden by the Word of Wisdom. There are alternatives, however, which contain chai spices but no black or white tea. These would be in keeping with the Word of Wisdom.
Can Mormons drink iced tea/coffee?
No. In general, ice tea and coffee are just cold versions of tea and coffee, both of which are not allowed. Making iced tea out of herbal teas or coffee-alternatives would be in keeping with the Word of Wisdom.
Any coffee based products, such as lattes, mochas, coffee cream, coffee protein powder, etc. that contain coffee are against the Word of Wisdom. Coffee flavored products are fine.
Can Mormons drink decaff?
No. It has been reiterated several time that caffeine is not the reason that coffee is proscribed. Removing caffeine, then, would not make coffee allowable under the Word of Wisdom.
Can Mormons drink herbal tea?
Yes. Church leadership has confirmed in several cases that herbal tea does not violate the Word of Wisdom. However, this is only true if the ingredients of the tea are not destructive, habit-forming, or addictive. Herbal teas with medicinal properties should be carefully considered before consumption.
Can Mormons use tea extracts (green tea extract, etc.)
No. Extracts are concentrations of several different substances found in green tea. In has been explicitly stated that Green tea (and other traditional teas) are against the Word of Wisdom. Taking only parts of them does not change what they are.
So, given that long list of No! answers, the question is left: so what kind of tea can I be drinking?
So, what kind of tea should you be drinking?
In my mind, there are three reasons to drink tea (and a great Word-of-Wisdom-approved option for each)
Traditional Choice: Green Tea. Green tea has literally a bazillion antioxidants. It purportedly helps with weight loss, provides antioxidants, prevents cancer, protects the brain from aging, etc. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed.
Word-of-Wisdom Approved Choice: If you are interested in a super tea which also provides caffeine (like Green Tea does) then try Yerba Mate. It contains more antioxidants, has a list of benefits a mile long, and provides a moderate amount of caffeine. If you want a stimulant-free version, try hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea has the highest anti-oxidant numbers of any tea and is recommended by health gurus such as Dr. Geiger.
For a Stimulant
If you’re interested in consuming herbal tea as a stimulant, there are dozen of options. The ones I recommend here are, in my eyes, in keeping with the Word of Wisdom but you may feel differently based on your interpretation of “substances that are destructive, habit-forming or addictive”
Yerba Mate is at the very forefront of stimulant teas that are healthy and keep you worthy. Apart from that, there are many nootropic and adaptogenic herbs that will boost energy and brain function.
The last option I’ll mention is mushroom extracts (which technically fall under the nootropic/adaptogenic umbrella). Companies such as Four Sigmatic have produced “Mushroom Hot Chocolate” which provides energy from well studied plants such as Lion’s Mane and Reishi.
If you like the tea and coffee for the taste, there are a bunch of alternatives that will hit the spot.
You can literally stroll down the tea aisle at any store and buy a hundred different types of tea. If you don’t know what you like, I’d recommend something like Tension Tamer or Red Zinger.
If you’re interested in a hot coffee-like drink, try Pero, which you also use to make killer cold-coffee drinks.
In parting, I have three different thoughts to leave you with (I know, I’m long winded). First off, a lot of the “doctrine” surrounding the Word of Wisdom are simply culture and hold-overs from past traditions.
Second, just because a type of tea is not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom doesn’t meant it’s a good idea to drink it. After all, you would run towards a cliff just because no one told you not to.
Lastly, it’s better to be safe than sorry. When I’m faced with any options that I’m not sure keep the Word of Wisdom, I find it’s better to not nit-pick, look for loopholes, etc. Remember:
“When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”Ezra Taft Benson
There are enough drinks that coincide with Word of Wisdom principles while still allowing you to meet your goals. There’s really not reason to push the envelope.
I hope this was helpful! If it was, feel free to share this article or comment below. Now go enjoy tea-time!